January 17, 2021

This is how reducing the working week has worked in the rest of European countries


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The proposal of the Second Vice President of the Government and Minister of Social Rights and Agenda 2030, Pablo Iglesias, from reduce the work week from 40 to 32 hours It is not a “rare bird” in Europe, since there is a history among our neighbors. From local proposals in Germany from reducing working hours from eight to six hours, until the “failure” of 35 hours a week in France.

Germany, in experimentation

In 2015, the German city of Gothenburg made a first experiment in which 70 nurses and caregivers went from a working day of 8 hours to only 6, maintaining the same salary. After 18 months, municipal staff registered fewer sick leave and increased their productivity, organizing up to 85% more activities with the elderly they cared for, but only the pilot test cost the city council 1.3 million euros, to cover the hours that were left empty. The councilor who promoted the idea, Daniel Bernmar, summarized: “it is clear that everything works better with a 6-hour shift, but that we cannot afford it without raising taxes.”

In 2018, the union IG Metall reached an agreement with the employer to give the possibility to part of its 2.3 million affiliates to opt for a 28-hour week for two years, prorating their salary, or for 40-hour workdays for whatever they wanted to “fill gaps productive ». More than 700 companies in southern Germany participate in this second experiment, including Daimler, ZF and Bosch, but proportionally very few workers have been interested, so that the tool had been in disuse until the arrival of the coronavirus.

Among the battery of measures taken by the German government against the recession, are subsidies for reduced working hours, to which companies have adhered in a large percentage due to the production stoppage. This formula was first devised by Volkswagen, which went through the deep crisis in the 1990s thanks to the 28.8-hour week agreed with the union. The Merkel government already applied this recipe in the previous crisis, starting in 2008, and it was successful again. In Germany, therefore, there are no ERTEs, but reductions in working hours with state aid to compensate for the loss of wages. And the IG Metall union is now demanding that the figure be fixed in the agreements and that these subsidies be extended for two years, given that without state aid, the 28-hour day has proven not to be viable neither for workers nor for industry . Industry bosses seem open to the idea, while the service sector is reticent.

For its part, its neighbor Denmark has a weekly maximum of 37 hours, although according to the OECD the average work of each Danish employee is 32.

France, still with consequences

The introduction of the 35-hour workweek, starting in 2000, resulted, in France, in job destruction, increase in unemployment, increase in precariousness, decrease in competitiveness and worsen public deficits.

For twenty years, successive governments from the left and right have tried to “offset,” “alleviate,” and “cut back” the perverse effects of the 39-35 hour workweek transition. In vain. The tax gadgets and administrative have created new problems, complicating and deteriorating public services.

In the UK, up for debate

In the UK there is currently a campaign underway to promote the four-day work week. According to a study by Autonomy, a think tank that supports it, this shift in working hours could help create half a million jobs. In addition, a survey of YouGov revealed that 63% of the population is in favor of this idea, which also has the support of some politicians, such as Labor MP John McDonell.

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